Delta has worst year ever for U.S. airline, with $2.2 billion loss in final quarter

Thursday, January 20th 2005, 10:55 am
By: News On 6

ATLANTA (AP) _ Delta Air Lines on Thursday reported a $2.2 billion fourth-quarter loss, giving it what was easily the industry's worst-ever annual financial performance.

The nation's third-largest carrier blamed high fuel prices, low fares and hefty charges for the poor results, which missed even Wall Street's reduced expectations.

Shares of Delta fell 56 cents, or 9.4 percent, to $5.39 in morning trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Delta CEO Gerald Grinstein told analysts on a Web conference that ``if Delta is to survive, we must develop a fundamentally different way of doing business, which is what we're doing.''

Delta has lost $8.5 billion since 2001 and nearly fell into bankruptcy 2 1/2 months ago before winning deep concessions from pilots and fresh financing from creditors.

For the three months ending Dec. 31, the Atlanta-based company said its net loss was $2.21 billion, compared with a loss of $332 million in the same period a year ago.

Excluding $1.4 billion in one-time, non-cash charges, Delta said it lost $780 million, or $5.88 a share. Analysts surveyed by Thomson First Call were expecting a net loss of $5.51 a share.

The results pushed the airline's total losses for 2004 to $5.2 billion, dwarfing the $3.5 billion loss posted by American Airlines' parent for 2002.

Analysts say it will take several more months to determine the success of Delta's transformation. If it works, Delta could turn a quarterly profit by the fall, some analysts say. Wild cards that remain include fuel prices, the economy and the company's recent fare overhaul.